While it isn’t strictly Dungeon World related, I’m going to use it for a Dungeon World game, so please listen.

While it isn’t strictly Dungeon World related, I’m going to use it for a Dungeon World game, so please listen.

While it isn’t strictly Dungeon World related, I’m going to use it for a Dungeon World game, so please listen.

I want to know about how actual naval battles (or skirmishes) were fought, before cannons were invented.

I know next to nothing about this. I need it for a “flying boats” one-shot I’m going to run on Sunday for five of my glorious friends.

Also, I’m gonna make custom moves like crazy…

31 thoughts on “While it isn’t strictly Dungeon World related, I’m going to use it for a Dungeon World game, so please listen.”

  1. Fire, rams, grapples+ murdering people off the other small boat.

    Flying boats: maybe war is all about flying higher and dropping lead weights onto boats below. War ships are all about dealing with cold and poor air to get the upper hand, so to speak. Merchant ships need to balance speed/maneuverability with cargo capacity at lower altitudes. You could evolve a whole military tradition out of this dynamic.

  2. You have two basic models to choose from.

    Pregunpowder medieval naval warfare was exactly like land warfare…only fought on a floating battlefield without horses.

    Multiple ships would literally wind up lashed together like a big floating island and boarding parties ruled the day. Having a taller ship gave you a height advantage and forced the enemy boarders to have to scale your “walls” like in a siege. In fact, this gave rise to the distinctive U shape of period ships as ship builders constructed actual towers fore an aft as archer platforms…the towers being referred to as “castles” being ultimately where the fore castle and aft castle were derived from on later ships.

    The other model is ancient galleys. Long narrow ships for maximum speed powered by 1, 2, 3 or even 4 or 5 decks of rowers. Often a forward mounted catapult to bombard the enemy fleet, a bit of maneuvering to try and hit the enemy from the side, and then ramming. A long bronze ram that would hole the enemy below the waterline, sideswiping an enemy to shear off ores or dropping a spiked bridge to enable borders.

    There tended to be a lot of capturing of enemy ships and fire based missile attacks.

  3. As I see it pre powder there were the same three main forms of naval combat. Gunpowder changed the ratios but they are Ship to ship (ramming), ranged (arrows or siege engines), and then boarding actions. Obviously many ships could do these in combination to varying degrees and one often prefaces the others. Ranged fire, ramming, hand to hand.

    Much ancient naval combat focusd on securing he vessels together and sending over infantry under the cover of raised archery positions, but there is always the Byzatine Greek fire projector, which was a bow mounted flame thrower.

    There is also a difference in rowed vs sailed combat. Wind and such affecting those engagements differently.

  4. Flying boats would definitely change trade patterns, where trade cities form(ed), and probably bring the fear of sea born monsters to the sky. Sharks are scarry. A pack of juvenile dragons is bloody terrifying! 

  5. Also there is a ton of Steam Punk material out there. Flying boats, airships and other quirky devices are a staple of the genre so you could mine that for ideas as well.

  6. You can just leave it at self powerd airships and ask the players about strategic situations as they pop up. If it makes sense in the fiction it works! Using the conversation that way is probably the *world games biggest strength!

  7. Boarding parties and fire.

    Before we could kill our fellow man reliably at a distance we had to get up close and personal. 

    Take a look at thrown hooks, pole arms, crossbows and the good old fashioned ballista. 

  8. I would think ramming would work differently since air does not resist movement like water.  I can imagine long poles attached to the side of ships to keep others from ramming.

    Maybe safety nets on booms to catch those falling. More of the crew might have safety ropes tied to them and the boat, especially if there are only 5 men.

    Perhaps ballista bolts toting parachutes that deploy by a lead string being pulled could slow ships down after being lodged in the hull. Boiling oil or other items/substances could be useful for dropping onto opponent ships.

    I imagine the bottom of the ship would possibly be shaped more akin to a cargo aircraft, depending on its use.

  9. Elliott Doza Actually, I have my doubts ramming would be very different. Yes, there’s less friction with air than with water, but these constructs are incredibly heavy, making them crash together all the same I’d think.

    Even in space, to colliding objects can crush each other.

  10. I have thought about flying ships a lot, with having them in a novel and all, and I’d add one battle tactic: disable the air floatability engine/force/magic. Whatever it is, you want to disrupt it in the enemy ships to ‘sink’ them. 

    Balista bolt of Dispel magic ?

  11. There’s more variety if flying boats aren’t simply powered.

    A sailing vessel doesnt need manpower, but is at the mercy of the elements.

    A many-crewed vessel (Space 1889 had Screw Galleys, with many crew turning cranked propellers) is faster in the short term, can mount a ram, and (where not slave crewed) has many fighting men.

  12. Kasper Brohus Here is my thought: I don’t know how different it would be, water vs air, but it would be different. In water, a boat is being pushed back upon by water, making being rammed that much more powerful.

    In air, there is little mass pushing back. Basically, the initial point of collision, at that exact moment would probably be close to the same in water and air but the moment after that would not. While a boat in water would be able to continue to exert force because the water is pushing back on the rammed ship in the air the rammed ship would be pushed instead.

    This is assuming the rammed boat is not exerting additional force from an engine or whatever and it’s not attached to a balloon/bladder/something keeping it afloat not affixed in the hull.

    In space things collide and crumple due to the high speeds obtainable without friction. However, if an object collides at a slow speed into another object with the same mass, the force would transfer initially but then both objects would travel in the direction of the collider.

  13. IRL flying sailing ships don’t work. Sailing requires a keel or other means of resisting sideways motion. Providing a Fantastic Air-Keel thus also opens up your ship to side-on ram attacks…

  14. Elliott Doza I just wrote a lengthy counter-argument why I think (must emphasize that, I am no expert) you are wrong. I found a “better” one.

    The difference in effect of a ship rammed while in water to that of a flying ship can be modeled by granting the flying ships more weight. After all, the only reason that a ship in water is harder to push is that you have to push the water as well.

  15. I assumed both in water and out of water masses would be equivalent. The point of impact would be similar but it’s the point after the impact that I think would make the difference.

    Game wise I doubt it’ll matter in the rules.

  16. Definitely cool. Lifeboats can instead be parachute pods or something!

    How would they recover from spinning out of control? Is there a mechanism to right the ship?

  17. I actually imagined, in my head, that the ships had sails, because that is what warships looks like. Maybe the Ships Core only makes the ship “float” in the air, but flying they can utilize the stronger winds of the higher layers 🙂

    Having wings might allow the ship to stabilize 🙂

  18. Think about how the float-propulsion system would change the design of the ships. They might not need a contiguous hull since they don’t need to keep out water. Is seaworthiness still important?

    Do aerodynamics play a part in the ship design? If not, would the ships more closely resemble floating fortresses? How do they turn? What are they made of? How do you stop one from moving? How do you stop it from floating?

    If the traditional concept of a deck and contiguous lower hull is redundant, how do they load and offload cargo? Look at cargo planes and their huge bay doors for inspiration.

  19. In Carl Schroeder’s Virga series he describes some amazing microgravity ships that are part spaceship part dirigible. As well there are bikes, essentially simple pulse jets, that people ride. The lack of gravity and the tech level are different t but his work elicits the steampunkish feel of flying boats while feeling real.

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